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Olympic forecast: U.S. to top medal table; China, Russia next

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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — If the Rio de Janeiro Olympics were held today, the United States would win the most medals — and the most golds. And American swimmer Michael Phelps would collect five more gold medals and a bronze, bringing his overall total to 28 with a career gold-medal haul of 23.

Simon Gleave has been crunching the Olympic numbers for four years, putting them through a data-processing program as the head of analysis for U.S.-based Gracenote, a sports and entertainment data provider.

“In terms of medal-count and order, it’s going to be close to what we have,” said Gleave, who in 2012, using a less sophisticated program, predicted within four medals the results of 16 of the top 20 teams.

Gleave will issue updates again in June, July and August, just days before the Aug. 5 Opening Ceremony. He expects a few minor changes, but nothing major.

Gleave is picking the United States to top the table with 42 gold and 102 overall. China will be second with 31 gold and 78 overall, which is the same one-two order as London four years ago. The next teams in order of gold are: Russia (22), Australia (18), Britain (17), Germany (15), Japan (12), South Korea (12), France (10) and the host country Brazil (9).

“You could look at this as if these are the stories before they happen,” Gleave said in an interview with The Associated Press.

For years, Italian Luciano Barra has predicted the medal count, basing his results on World Championships results leading up to the Games.

Gleave has gone several steps beyond. He tracks World Championships, Grand Prix events, Grand Slams and even some continental championships — then gives more weight to the most recent events, and the most important events.

Although Gleave has Russia placing third in the gold-medal and overall standings, some Russian athletes could be banned from the games over a doping scandal.

“It’s a bit difficult to know with Russia at the moment,” Gleave said. “We don’t know the sports they are going to be competing in with all the stuff that’s been going on around Russia.”

Gleave also has Phelps down for six more medals — five gold. He’s picking him to win gold in the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m individual medley. He’s had to guess on which relays Phelps will swim, but he picks him for gold in the 4x100m medley and 4x200m freestyle. And he figures he’ll get bronze in the 4x100m freestyle.

“We are speculating to an extent on the relays,” Gleave said. “But I don’t think that it’s a wild thing to guess.”

A few other highlights from Gleave’s predictions:

– American gymnast Simone Biles will win four gold medals, and one silver.

– Australian swimmer Emily Seebohm will win three golds and a silver.

– Chinese table tennis star Ma Long will win two golds.

– American swimmer Katie Ledecky will take four gold medals.

– Brazil will set a national record with 25 medals overall and nine gold, taking advantage of being the host nation.

– Argentina will win only two medals, its worst performance since 1992 in Barcelona when it won only one.

– Spain’s medal total will fall for the fourth straight Olympics.

The predictions are fun for fans, but they also make money.

Gleave said Gracenote sells its data to National Olympic Committees, including the United States, Australia and Great Britain. It also sells to media clients like the American television network CBS and Canada’s CBC.

“We provide them with data, and they use it in their decision-making,” Gleave said.

Gleave laughed when he was told he was taking all the suspense out of the Olympics.

“As we all know, sport doesn’t always work the way we expect it to,” he said.

MORE: NBC announces Rio Opening Ceremony hosts

 

Eddy Alvarez, Olympic short track medalist, to play for Miami Marlins

Eddy Alvarez
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Eddy Alvarez realized his MLB dream, six years after earning a Winter Olympic medal, and during a global pandemic that affected his club more than any other U.S. professional sports franchise.

Alvarez, a 2014 U.S. Olympic short track speed skating medalist, is being added to the Miami Marlins roster for Tuesday’s restart of their abbreviated season, president of baseball operations Mike Hill said Monday, according to Marlins beat reporters.

The 30-year-old was among a group added after as many as 18 Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus last week, forcing the club to cancel seven games.

Alvarez is believed to be the first U.S. Winter Olympian to become a Major League Baseball player.

He may be the second Olympic medalist in a sport other than baseball to make it to the majors, joining Jim Thorpe. (Michael Jordan tried to do so with the Chicago White Sox, playing Double-A in 1994, but returned to the Chicago Bulls in 1995.)

Alvarez, a Miami native, played baseball in high school and at Salt Lake Community College before focusing on short track in 2012 for a 2014 Olympic run.

He came back from missing the 2010 Olympic team and surgeries on both knees, reportedly leaving him immobile and bedpan dependent for four to six weeks, to make the Sochi Winter Games. Eddy the Jet earned a silver medal in the 5000m relay.

Then Alvarez returned to baseball after three years away. He signed a minor-league contract with the Chicago White Sox in June 2014. He worked his way through the minors between that franchise and the Marlins system.

Alvarez was a Kannapolis Intimidator, a New Orleans Baby Cake and a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

Now, he’s a big leaguer.

“It definitely was a chance, picking up a kid who hasn’t played in three years who is starting at the age of 24,” Alvarez said in 2014. “It’s not your typical story, but I play like a 17-year-old kid. I’m running around everywhere. I’m diving around everywhere. I’m full of life. I definitely see my progression moving at a rapid pace.”

MORE: What Olympic baseball, softball return looks like in 2021

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Katie Ledecky balances glass of chocolate milk on her head while swimming

Katie Ledecky
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Katie Ledecky will always remember Aug. 3 as the date she won her first Olympic gold medal, at age 15 in 2012.

Now, she can also associate it with the time she created another kind of buzz on social media.

The five-time Olympic champion posted video of her swimming the length of a pool while balancing a glass of chocolate milk on her head. Barely any, if any, milk spilled into the pool.

Ledecky swam as part of a new got milk? ad campaign.

“Hoooowww nervous were you when you did this?!” fellow Olympic champion and training partner Simone Manuel asked Ledecky on Instagram.

“I have never braced my core so hard,” Ledecky wrote. “It’s a great drill!”

“Try doing it breaststroke,” British Olympic 100m breaststroke champion and world-record holder Adam Peaty wrote.

“Is it wrong of me to think this is even more impressive than a few of your WR’s?!!!” wrote 1992 Olympic champion Summer Sanders.

MORE: The meet where Kathleen Ledecky became Katie Ledecky

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